Book Review: A Guide to Contemporary Architecture in America: Volume 1

A Guide to Contemporary Architecture in America: Volume 1, Western U.S.A., by Masayuki Fuchigami

Coming after the author's three-volume guide to contemporary architecture in Europe, this first of three for the United States tackles these western states in three separate sections: California and Hawaii; Washington, Oregon, and Nevada; Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. Given the wide expanses and few metropolises, California makes up a great deal of the book, the Los Angeles area in particular comprising a good chunk. Using LA as an example, the selections included in this travel guide are a mix of the obvious (Gehry's Disney Concert Hall) and the lesser-known (Hodgett + Fung's Sinclaire Pavilion). While admittedly focusing on the contemporary, the guide does not omit Modern gems of the early to mid 20th-century. In some ways, these buildings might be the ones to search out, as they have stood the test of time that more recent architecture has yet to engage in. Fuchigami doesn't prefer any one style over another, as he enthusiastically praises alternately Louis I. Kahn's meditative Salk Institute and Venturi and Brown's "decorated sheds" on UCLA's campus. As a travel guide, it excels in presentation and the range of buildings presented, though many of the maps are not detailed enough to make up for the lack of directions, an omission perhaps due to the popularity of online map searches. Whatever its shortcomings, I'm looking forward to the next two volumes.